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THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS - Chapter 1 - Verse 1
ROMANS Chapter One
THE Epistle to the Romans has been usually regarded as the most difficult portion of the New Testament. It is from this cause, probably, as well as from the supposition that its somewhat abstruse discussions could not be made interesting to the young, that so few efforts have been made to introduce it into Sunday Schools and Bible Classes. It will doubtless continue to be a fact, that Sunday School instruction will be confined chiefly to the historical parts of the Bible. In the Sacred Scriptures there is this happy adaptedness to the circumstances of the world, that so large a portion of the volume can thus be made interesting to the minds of children and youth; that so much of it is occupied with historical narrative; with parables; with interesting biographies of the holy men of other times, and with the life of our blessed Lord. But still, while this is true, there is a considerable portion of the youth, in various ways under the instruction of the Bible, who may be interested in the more abstruse statements and discussions of the doctrinal parts of the Holy Scriptures. For such—for Sunday School teachers; for Bible Classes; and for the higher classes in Sabbath Schools—these Notes have been prepared. The humble hope has been cherished that this epistle might be introduced to this portion of the youth of the churches; and thus tend to imbue their minds with correct views of the great doctrines of the Christian Revelation.
This object has been kept steadily in view. The design has not been to make a learned commentary; nor to enter into theological discussions; nor to introduce, at length, practical reflections; nor to enter minutely into critical investigations. All these can be found in books professedly on these subjects. The design has been to state, with as much brevity and simplicity as possible, the real meaning of the sacred writer; rather the results of critical inquiry, as far as the author has had ability and time to pursue it, than the process by which those results were reached. The design has been to state what appeared to the author to be the real meaning of the Epistle, without any regard to any existing theological system; and without any deference to the opinions of others, further than the respectful deference and candid examination, which are due to the opinions of the learned, the wise, and the good, who have made this Epistle their particular study. At the same time that this object has been kept ill view, and the reference to the Sabbath School teacher, and the Bible Class, has given character to the work, still it is hoped that the expositions are of such a nature as not to be uninteresting to Christians of every age and of every class. He accomplishes a service of no little moment in the cause of the church of God, and of truth, who contributes in any degree to explain the profound argument, the thorough doctrinal discussion, the elevated views, and the vigorous, manly, and masterly reasonings of the Epistle to the Romans.
Of the defects of this work, even for the purpose contemplated, no one will probably be more deeply sensible than the author. Of the time and labour necessary to prepare even such brief Notes as these, few persons, probably, are aware. This work has been prepared amidst the cares and toils of a most responsible pastoral charge. My brethren in the ministry, so far as they may have occasion to consult these Notes, will know how to appreciate the cares and anxieties amidst which they have been prepared. They will be indulgent to the faults of the book; they will not censure harshly what is well-meant for the rising generation; they will be the patrons of every purpose, however humble, to do good.
It remains only to add, that free use has been made of all the helps within the reach of the author. The language of other writers has not been adopted without particular acknowledgment, but their ideas have been freely used where they were thought to express the sense of the text. In particular, aid has been sought and obtained from the following works: the CRITICI SACRI, CALVIN'S COMMENTARY ON THE Romans, DODRIDGE, MACKNIGHT, and ROSENMULLER; and the commentaries of THOLUCK and FLATT—So far as an imperfect knowledge of the German language could render their aid available. A considerable portion was written before Professor STUART'S Commentary appeared. In the remaining portion, important aid has been freely derived from that work. The aim of this work is substantially the same as that of the "Notes on the Gospels," and on the Acts of the Apostles; and the earnest wish and prayer of the author is, that it may be one among many means of establishing the truth, and of promoting its advancement and ultimate triumph in the world.
Philadelphia, June 14, 1834.
THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS.
Verse 1. Paul. The original name of the author of this epistle was Saul, Ac 7:58; 8:1; 9:1, etc. This was changed to Paul, See Barnes "Ac 13:9, and by this name he is generally known in the New Testament. The reason why he assumed this name is not certainly known. It was, however, in accordance with the custom of the times. See Barnes "Ac 13:9".
The name Saul was Hebrew; the name Paul was Roman. In addressing an epistle to the Romans, he would naturally make use of the name to which they were accustomed, and which would excite no prejudice among them. The ancient custom was to begin an epistle with the name of the writer, as Cicero to Varro, etc. We record the name at the end. It may be remarked, however, that the placing the name of the writer at the beginning of an epistle was always done, and is still, when the letter was one of authority, or when it conferred any peculiar privileges. Thus in the proclamation of Cyrus, Ezr 1:2, "Thus saith Cyrus, king of Persia," etc. See also Ezr 4:11; Ezr 7:12, "Artaxerxes, king of kings, unto Ezra the priest," etc.; Da 4:1. The commencement of a letter by an apostle to a Christian church in this manner was peculiarly proper as indicating authority.
And it was the customary name which they assumed, Ga 1:10; Col 4:12; 2 Pe 1:11; Jude 1:1; Ac 4:29; Tit 1:1; Jas 1:1. The proper meaning of this word servant— doulov is slave, one who is not free. It expresses the condition of one who has a master, or who is at the control of another. It is often, however, applied to courtiers, or the officers that serve under a king; because in an eastern monarchy the relation of an absolute king to his courtiers corresponded nearly to that of a master and a slave. Thus the word is expressive of dignity and honour; and the servants of a king denote officers of a high rank and station. It is applied to the prophets as those who were honoured by God, or peculiarly entrusted by him with office, De 34:5; Jos 1:2; Jer 25:4.
The apostle uses it here evidently to denote his acknowledging Jesus Christ as his Master; as indicating his dignity, as peculiarly appointed by him to his great work; and as showing that in this epistle he intended to assume no authority of his own, but simply to declare the will of his Master, and thefts.
Called to be an apostle. This word called means, here, not merely to be invited, but has the sense of appointed. It indicates that he had not assumed the office himself, but that he was set apart to it by the authority of Christ himself. It was important for Paul to state this,
(2.) because Paul was not one of those originally appointed. It was of consequence for him, therefore, to affirm that he had not taken this high office to himself, but that he had been called to it by the authority of Jesus Christ. His appointment to this office he not unfrequently takes occasion to vindicate, 1 Co 9:1, etc.; Ga 1:12-24; 2 Co 12:12; 1 Ti 2:7; 2 Ti 1:11; Ro 11:13.
An apostle. One sent to execute a commission. It is applied because the apostles were sent out by Jesus Christ to preach his gospel, and to establish his church. See Barnes "Mt 10:2"; See Barnes "Lu 6:13".
Separated. The word translated separated unto—aforizw —means, to designate, to mark out by fixed limits, to bound as a field, etc. It denotes those who are separated, or called out from the common mass, Ac 19:9; 2 Co 6:17. The meaning here does not materially differ from the expression, called to be an apostle, except that perhaps this includes the notion of the purpose or designation of God to this work. Thus Paul uses the same word respecting himself, Ga 1:15, "God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace;" i.e., God designated me; marked me out; or designed that I should be an apostle from my infancy. In the same way Jeremiah was designated to be a prophet, Jer 1:5.
Unto the Gospel of God. Designated or designed by God that I should make it my business to preach the gospel. Set apart to this, as the peculiar, great work of my life; as having no other object for which I should live. For the meaning of the word gospel, See Barnes "Mt 1:1".
It is called the gospel of God because it is his appointment; it has been originated by him, and has his authority. The office of an apostle was to preach the gospel. Paul regarded himself as separated to this work. It was not to live in splendour, wealth, and ease, but to devote himself to this great business of proclaiming good news, that God was reconciled to men in his Son. This is the sole business of all ministers of religion.
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